Having last week opted against going into any great detail over another glorified pre-season fitness session, yesterday’s trip to Bridlington for a friendly with Scarborough Athletic was as enjoyable a test against non-league opposition as you’re likely to find.
Notts twice came from behind on the coast to clinch victory with many of Keith Curle’s latest signings impressing. Bearing in mind the quality of the opposition, and the old adage “You can only beat what’s in front of you”, Keith Curle will likely be happy with much of what he saw.
His County side were utterly dominant in possession in the first half. The ball belonged to them, and Scarbs were lucky to get a sniff of it at times. And it wasn’t just along the back line either – this was some of the most patient Notts football we’ve seen recently. Was actually very impressive to watch. With Alan Judge given the freedom of the entire field, he was at the heart of much of Notts’ work.
Yet there were undoubtedly moments where they lacked the incision you would’ve hoped for, reduced instead largely to shots from distance by Alans Sheehan and Judge.
Yoann Arquin was closest to breaking the deadlock for his team early on, closing home goalkeeper Kevin Martin down. After a brief tangle, the Frenchman got his shot in which was parried by Martin straight back to him, a second shot which was blocked on the line. The ball would fall to Yoann again, but he would only connect with fresh air with his wild swing.
For all of County’s possession, it would be the hosts who would break the deadlock – from their first spell of anything even close to resembling pressure. With shots raining in, Sheehan would hurl himself at the ball but deflect it with his hands. Oliver Ryan stepped up and dispatch the spot-kick to give Scarborough a 1-0 lead at the interval.
The second half football was very different to that which was shown off in the first. What the opening 45 lacked in incision was more than made up for. It was all very promising but again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves though with that kind of opposition.
Enoch Showunmi (replacing Gavin Mahon in the second half) was a colossus, offering more energy, movement and general mayhem than Ben Burgess did for the entirety of his time at Notts. He would’ve had two goals were it not a ridiculously good save from six yards and nearly for chasing a ball back to the goalkeeper down.
It won’t have been lost on KC how his side were bullied off the field at times last season – this has almost certainly been rectified with the additions of Liddle and Enoch. Very few sides will be pushing us around in 2012/13.
His ex-Tranmere team mate Joss Labadie was as brilliant as his two second half goals suggest, always a thorn in the opponent’s side. Gary Liddle is as classy a player as Keith Curle might ever sign, whilst Arquin is unquestionably still a little rough but again – there are signs of a decent player in there.
And Judge? I just don’t know how he keeps pulling these goals out of the hat. Following a couple of range-finders, his goal to bring Notts level (after a sublime James Bennett lob had put the Seadogs back in the lead) was straight out of last season’s playbook as he hit the top corner from fully 25 yards.
I’ll hopefully be interviewing Judgey in a week or so’s time for issue #1 of Black & White – the first question could so easily be “How do you do it?”
So a 3-2 win and the sort of workout that Curle and his backroom staff would’ve desperately wanted to see as the pre-season preparations step up a level with a trip to Gibraltar, ahead of games against AEK Athens and Nottingham Forest at Meadow Lane. There would’ve been few Notts fans that made the trip to the coast unhappy with much of what they’d seen.